A former federal election official on Thursday called the $400 million-plus that Mark Zuckerberg spent to help finance local elections a “carefully orchestrated attempt” to influence the 2020 vote — and recommended that all states ban private funding of election offices.
Hans von Spakovsky, a former Federal Election Commission member, said the billionaire Facebook founder’s donations to a pair of nonprofits that doled out the cash to nearly 2,500 counties in 49 states “violated fundamental principles of equal treatment of voters since it may have led to unequal opportunities to vote in different areas of a state.”
“My reaction is that this was a carefully orchestrated attempt to convert official government election offices into get-out-the-vote operations for one political party and to insert political operatives into election offices in order to influence and manipulate the outcome of the election,” said von Spakovsky, a Republican who now runs the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative.
He added: “All states should ban private funding of government election offices no matter the source.”
The Post’s publication of a report that said Zuckerberg effectively “bought” the 2020 election also sparked outrage from the New York State Republican Party, which retweeted a link to the paper’s front-page coverage.
“Zuckerberg spent $419 MILLION trying to infiltrate a private takeover of our elections through ideological non-profits designed to turn out the Dem vote in 2020. All while silencing Republican voices. (including the NYGOP) We MUST rein in big tech NOW,” the state GOP tweeted.
Former US Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who lost a January runoff to Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock, also retweeted The Post’s report.
“Zuckerberg infiltrated our elections, doling out $45M in GA alone to engineer a partisan takeover of our state’s elections operations,” she wrote.
“That’s why we are seeking transparency – from the [secretary of state] and Fulton County. There must be accountability now.”
Legislation to prohibit outside funding of elections has been introduced in 17 states this year, according to the Ballotpedia website.
In April, Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed one measure into law, saying, “With public confidence in our elections in peril, it’s clear our elections must be pristine and above reproach — and the sole purview of government.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a Republican, said earlier this week that a recent election reform law he signed had “banned Zuckerbucks” in the Sunshine State.
But in Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a GOP proposal in June, saying that “non-governmental grants” had helped local election officials “conduct safe elections under extraordinary circumstances” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The money donated by Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, was supposed to augment government funding and “promote safe and reliable voting” so that “every eligible voter can participate in a safe and timely way and that their vote is counted,” according to a September 2020 press release announcing the plan.
The report by researcher William Doyle, based on analysis using a machine-learning algorithm, found that the spending likely added about 200,000 votes to Biden’s expected tally in Texas, which wasn’t enough to keep Trump from carrying the Lone Star State.
Preliminary results suggest a “similar impact” on the voting in the crucial swing states of Wisconsin and Georgia, Doyle wrote in his report, first published by The Federalist.
Biden narrowly won both races, by less than 21,000 votes in Wisconsin and less than 12,000 votes in Georgia.
A spokesman for Zuckerberg and Chan said their critics’ allegations “simply don’t add up.”
Spokesman Ben LaBolt said the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which received the bulk of the funding, “issued an open call to local election jurisdictions across the country and provided funding to all jurisdictions that applied no matter whether they were historically Republican, Democratic or swing districts.”
“More of the jurisdictions that received funding historically voted Republican than Democratic, so the facts belie the claim,” he said.
The executive director of Center For Tech and Civic Life, Tiana Epps-Johnson, said in a statement they are a non-partisan organization “backed by Republicans, Democrats, and nonpartisan officials, which is why all local election offices responsible for administering election activities covered by the CTCL COVID-19 Response grant program were eligible to apply.”
“Every legitimate applicant was awarded a grant. Over half of all grants nationwide went to election departments that serve fewer than 25,000 registered voters,” said Epps-Johnson.
Zuckerberg wasn’t the only Californian to fund the administration of the 2020 election, however, with actor and former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger donating unspecified amounts to 33 counties in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
In a series of tweets announcing the plan, Schwarzenegger said he wanted to help “reopen polling centers” that were closed after the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that a section of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional.
The USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, which distributed the grants, didn’t respond to a request for the individual amounts but released a statement that said they were awarded on a “nonpartisan” basis.
“With the assistance of the grants from the Institute, participating counties opened 1,305 early voting and election day polling places and turnout increased by 6.3 percentage points,” academic director Christian Grose said.